Anthem isn’t a great game. But it's also not a terrible game.
Kotaku’s Jason Scherier recently reported game studio BioWare is giving the game a massive overhaul. Parent company Electronic Arts has high hopes as to the possibility of saving the faltering title, which was seven years in the making.
Emphasis on Interface Improvements
In its current state, it’s hard to know which quests, missions, challenges and tasks a player should prioritize. There are numerous menu options that look pretty, but unfortunately, are encumbered with information that makes them difficult to navigate.
Simplifying the codex, quest screens, and navigation options could drastically improve the experience as a whole. Though it's a much less ambitious game, Obsidian's recent release The Outer Worlds contains a lot of information in an extremely easy-to-navigate, if imperfect, menu series. Anthem could take cues that game to offer easier ways to track and complete tasks.
Inventory Management Improvements
Along the same lines, inventory management is notoriously clunky. For starters, players can't load into their inventory screens mid-mission. This means loadouts are locked from the get-go, and that there's no way for them to make changes if they find they need to adjust their weapon types to do more damage.
But beyond that, the way the game handles inventory is fundamentally flawed. It's hard to understand weapon benefits in relation to one another. Further, the option to salvage weapons at the end of a mission doesn't allow players to easily compare these weapons against their current loadouts and inventory. This means they're resigned to salvaging only low-level loot and duplicate items. And if that's the case, then then this should happen automatically, saving players the need to visit this screen at all.
Fixes for Long Load Times
Anthem isn’t the only RPG/looter-shooter game with long load times. Destiny 2 certainly has its problems with load times, too. But at least in Destiny 2, players can customize their loadouts, add shaders to their armor, upgrade weapons and so on while they're in orbit, waiting for missions to pre-load. These players are unable to do so in load screens, but those are animated, making the experience less clunky as players load into matches, strikes or other experiences.
It's such a drastic difference from a stagnant load screen. A long, still loading screen not only takes the player out of the game, but it leads to a boring experience for players who broadcast their gameplay. Ultimately, this robs Anthem of one of its strongest potential marketing outlets: the streaming community.
Story Enhancements (Or Cuts)
In Anthem, the player never feels truly engaged in the narrative. There's little to draw gamers in and allow them to explore the lives of the NPCs with whom they interact. While fans of BioWare loved the game developer's Mass Effect titles at least in part due to its thoughtful dialogue options, Anthem doesn’t quite have that same feel. Anthem's developers specifically chose to limit player dialogue options to minor emotional reactions, and it's not always clear how these decisions affect the stories happening within Fort Tarsis.
One option might be to cut down the story and focus on developing engaging experiences. An alternative option, though expensive, might be to tell the story primarily through cut scenes and lore.
Smooth Out Fort Tarsis
Movement through Fort Tarsis is sluggish and slow. This is especially problematic as players frequently have to return to this location. It’s not exactly the lag that's the problem, though there's that, too. But the issue is about more the character’s speed relative to the gameplay beyond the walls. Switching back and forth between these playability options is jarring. While Destiny 2 doesn’t allow combat or double jumping in its home base, The Tower, the game still lets people accelerate their speed and move quickly while in this community space.
Fix Jetpack Mechanics
Jetpack mechanics are the game's core distinguishing features, and they're a lot of fun. However, the jetpack can be hard to control, which leads to difficulty exploring the map and dodging attacks. Additionally, with so much elevated terrain, the jetpack mechanics cause players to fly into cliff edges as they struggle to maneuver exactly the right point.
Adjust Loot Implementations
Anthem is, first and foremost, a looter-shooter. In a complete overhaul, loot needs to be front and center. As of now, the loot system is fractured and messy. Players can acquire far too many low-level items for which they have no use, and it's hard for them to understand the benefits of each.
An overhaul would limit the repetitive nature of drops while focusing on a clean system for upgrading and improving gear. That system should be easy for anyone to understand. Even if the game developers want to eventually reach a state where upgrades are the result of difficult-to-find crafting materials, the game should build its way toward that by starting from a much simpler place.
Anthem Could Be Great
These fixes, while large and time-consuming, will provide the types of adjustments that will make the game fun to play over and over again.
It’s only by getting the core mechanics right that BioWare can build a game with the potential to be a mainstay. Players want nothing more than for the team behind this title to live up to the BioWare promise of creating incredible games.